- Mike Fish, ESPN Senior Writer
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The English Tudor home sits in an exclusive Memphis neighborhood. Sprinkled about the first floor is Alabama football memorabilia, set off by a large photo of Logan Young Jr. and legendary Crimson Tide coach Paul "Bear" Bryant. It is here that Young, the colorful and powerful Bama booster, through the years entertained college coaches and football zealots, especially those partial to Alabama.
And it was in this rambling two-story home that Young, who turned 65 last football season, was found dead by a housekeeper Tuesday morning. Memphis police ruled his death an accident Thursday.
Word of Young's death sent shock waves through gossipy Southern college football circles, where the blustery, onetime hard drinker proved a lightning rod in his role as influential Alabama booster. For the better part of three decades, Young sat atop the NCAA's list of suspicious characters until finally being named in an investigation that led to sanctions against Alabama in 2002. The NCAA enlisted at least 11 secret witnesses, led by Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer, in building its case.
With influential boosters from rival UT working the legal system in Memphis, Young subsequently became the first college sports booster sentenced to prison essentially for busting NCAA rules. Young was sentenced to six months in June, but he was free pending appeal. He also was recovering from a successful kidney transplant Oct. 20.
"I had dinner with him a week ago, and he was in excellent spirits," said Phillip Shanks, a longtime friend and fellow Alabama loyalist. "He had stopped drinking, was eating well. His affairs were in order. He was supremely confident of victory on the appeal of his case. I was so happy for him. For something like this to happen is just devastating.
"He was in such great spirits. The only problem he had was a domestic situation. The rest of his life was in perfect condition."
Shanks refused to elaborate on the issue.
Young had spoken candidly to ESPN.com in the past about his son, 38-year-old Logan Young III, who had in recent months moved back into his father's home.
In 1971, Logan Young Jr. inherited a fortune upon the death of his father, who was a leader in the development of margarine during World War II. He enjoyed the good things in life and told ESPN.com this past fall that he'd spent $1 million on his defense efforts. Friends also voiced concern Tuesday that he was known to carry, and keep in his home, sizable sums of cash.
"The only thing that comes to my mind is Logan, and it was part of his downfall in his case -- he carried a lot of cash, took a lot of cash out of the bank," said Jim Neal, his Memphis-based attorney. "I know that he was one of the kindest, nicest, gentlest guys I have ever known."
Neal, a former Watergate prosecutor, said an appeal date had not been set for Young, convicted under federal charges of money laundering and racketeering conspiracy for making cash payments in the recruitment of Memphis high school player Albert Means.
"I never believed this was a federal offense," Neal said. "Whatever he did, and let's assume he did what the jury said he did, this was not a federal crime."
Worried about a possible NCAA death sentence, Alabama officials hit Young with a lifetime ban and pulled his 24-seat skybox (price tag: $40,000 annually) after he was investigated for illegal recruiting in 2000. Young told ESPN.com in October that the university also cut ties with a life insurance policy that would have paid $500,000 to Alabama upon his death. The money, he said, was earmarked for the Paul "Bear" Bryant Museum on the Tuscaloosa campus.
"At my death, they got a half million [dollars]," Young said. "So they canceled that. I got banned, and that was the end of it."
Young never set foot in an Alabama classroom, having attended Vanderbilt University. His link to Alabama is coach Bryant, a onetime Vanderbilt assistant who was a close friend of Young's father. The Bear emerged as a role model for Young after Young's father died.
"Coach was fond of Logan, and for good reason: Logan was somebody he could be himself with. Let his hair down," Shanks explained. "And I think they just enjoyed each other's company. There was a huge age disparity, but Logan just made Coach feel comfortable."
Before Bryant's death in 1983, he would spend time with Young in Memphis and vacation at Young's beach house in Florida.
"Coach loved to go to Palm Beach," Young told ESPN.com in October. "After the season, we'd go down and hang out. He liked to hang out around the beach. Just the two of us. He'd just come there, bring his golf clubs. Sometimes he'd play, sometimes he wouldn't."
The tales of his hanging with The Bear, who to this day is still revered by legions of Crimson Tide faithful, validated Young's stature as one of the most influential boosters in college sports. He continued to have a pipeline to a series of Bryant's successors up to Dennis Franchione, as well as apparently working back-channel recruiting networks.
"He loved Alabama too well, I guess," Neal said. "Or as the poet said, 'Not too wisely, but too well.'"
Mike Fish is an investigative reporter for ESPN.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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